Record

Authorised form of nameRonalds; Sir; Francis (1788 - 1873); inventor and meteorologist
Dates1788 - 1873
NationalityBritish
Place of birthLondon, England
Date of birth21 February 1788
Place of deathSt Mary's Villa, Battle, Sussex, England
Date of death08 August 1873
Dates and placesBurial: Battle, Sussex, England
Research fieldMeteorology
Physics
Electrical engineering
ActivityEduation: Revd E. Cogan's school at Cheshunt; joined the family firm, Field and Ronalds, wholesale cheesemongers in Upper Thames Street, London (1803); following the death of his father he ran the firm (1806)
Career:
Exhibited a strong interest in experimentation and the construction of scientific apparatus from a young age; encouraged by Jean André de Luc, he conducted practical experiments in electrical transmission at his residence, Kelmscott House. He set up two parallel wooden structures, 20 yards apart, connecting them with insulated wire for a continuous length of 8 miles. His success demonstrated that, in dry weather, electric signals could be transmitted almost instantaneously over distances (1814); Ronalds further developed an electrical telegraph apparatus, incorporating a single underground line of 525 feet within thick glass tubes coated with pitch. Despite the system's slow pace, he established synchronization routines for two dials, proving its functionality over the buried wire. Although he did not seek a patent, Ronalds detailed his experiments in a pamphlet titled "Descriptions of an Electrical Telegraph and of some other Electrical Apparatus" (1823); wrote to the Admiralty, highlighting the rapidity and practicality of his telegraph. However, the Admiralty considered telegraphs unnecessary, and his system was not adopted (1816); embarked on a tour of Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, documenting his experiences and expanding his collection of books on electricity and magnetism (1823); invented and patented a device for sketching from nature (1825), followed by an improved version (1828); became the honorary director of the former Royal Observatory at Kew, conducting experiments in the continuous automatic registration of meteorological data by photography. Despite sharing credit with Charles Wheatstone, Ronalds asserted his independent invention of the system (1842); retired and received a civil-list pension for his contributions to electicity and meteorology (1852); in hi slater years compiled a bibliographical catalogue of works on electricity, magnetism, and related subjects, bequeathing his collection to the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) (1880)
Honours:
Kt 1871
Membership categoryFellow
Date of election01/02/1844
Age at election56
ProposerHenry Moseley; Edward Sabine; Edward Solly; Charles Wheatstone; William Brockedon; William Thomas Brande; Michael Faraday; Thomas Graham
Royal Society activityThe Royal Society made an initial grant of £50 from the Wollaston fund toward the costs of constructing the apparatus devised by Ronalds and in 1851 a further grant of £100 to fund a six-month experimental trial. In gratitude Ronalds was to bequeath £500 to the Royal Society.
RelationshipsParents: Francis Ronalds (1761–1806), merchant, and Jane (1766–1852), daughter of William Field, merchant, and Ann Bailey.
Siblings: Alfred Ronalds, authore of the classic book The Fly-fisher's Entomology (1836); Hugh Ronalds was one of the founders of the city of Albion in the American Midwest; Emily Ronalds, social reformer.
Uncle: Hugh Ronalds, nurseryman
Nephews: Professor Edumnd Ronalds, academic and industrial chemist; Hugh Carter, portrait painter
Published worksRCN 51063
RCN R61298
RCN R61299
RCN 28673
General contextKnown for the electric telegraph, continuously recording camera, and perspective drawing instruments.
Knighted for creating the first working electric telegraph over a substantial distance.
SourcesSources:
Bulloch's Roll; DNB
Notes:
Biog Mem in "Catalogue of the Ronalds Library" 1880.
Virtual International Authority Filehttp://viaf.org/viaf/61893045
Royal Society codeNA7632
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
EC/1844/04Ronalds, Sir Francis: certificate of election to the Royal Society
IM/003876Ronalds, Sir Francisnd
MS/257/3/344Letter from Francis Ronalds, Chiswick to Edward Sabine15 February 1849
IM/Maull/003875Ronalds, Sir Francisnd
MS/426/449Note of a letter from [the Secretaries of] the Royal Society; to F [Francis] Ronalds, Chiswick19 June 1851
MC/10/126Letter from S [Samuel] Carter, Quarry Hill, Battle, to Walter White, [Assistant Secretary of the Royal Society]17 June 1874
MS/426/194Copy letter from C R [Charles Richard] Weld, the Assistant Secretary of the Royal Society; to F [Francis] Ronalds Esq3 April 1846
MS/426/347Copy letter from C R [Charles Richard] Weld, the Assistant Secretary of the Royal Society; to Sir J F W [John Wiliam Frederick] Herschel 20 November 1848
MS/257/3/348Letter from Francis Ronalds, Chiswick to Edward Sabine9 August 1852
PT/32/8/3Plate, figures 8-9 showing a declination magnetograph by Francis Ronalds[1846]
PT/32/8/2Plate, figures 1-7 showing electrograph, thermometrograph, barometrograph, and contracting diaphragm by Francis Ronalds[1846]
MC/6/220Letter from Fras [Francis] Ronalds, Milan, to Walter White, Assistant Secretary of the Royal Society18 April 1862
MC/4/371Letter from Fra [Francis] Ronalds, Kew Observatory, to S H [Samuel Hunter] Christie, [Secretary of the Royal Society]18 December 1850
PT/32/8/1Manuscript, 'On photographic self registering meteorological and magnetical instruments' by Francis Ronalds[1846]
MC/4Volume 4 of miscellaneous correspondence regarding business matters, sent to the Royal Society1844-1850
MC/6/135Letter from Fras [Francis] Ronalds, Hotel de la Ville, Milan, to C R [Charles Richard] Weld5 May 1861
MC/6Volume 6 of miscellaneous correspondence regarding business matters, sent to the Royal Society1859-1863
PT/32/8Paper, 'On photographic self registering meteorological and magnetical instruments' by Francis Ronalds[1846]
MC/9/152Letter from S [Samuel] Carter, Quarry Hill, Battle, to the Secretary of the Royal Society14 January 1871
MC/9Volume 9 of miscellaneous correspondence regarding business matters, sent to the Royal Society1870-June 1873
MC/10/122Letter from Executors of Ronalds, Quarry Hill, Battle, to the Secretary of the Royal Society11 June 1874
MC/10/141Letter from Horne & Hunter [?], 6 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, to Walter White, [Assistant Secretary of the Royal Society], Burlington House13 July 1874
MC/10Volume 10 of miscellaneous correspondence regarding business matters, sent to the Royal SocietyJuly 1873-1876
MS/257/2/236Copy of a letter from W Hamilton, Admiralty to [Francis Ronalds]7 October 1848
MS/257/3/343Letter from Francis Ronalds, Chiswick to Edward Sabine10 November 1848
MS/257/3/346'Mr [Francis] Ronald's memo addressed to the Kew Committee'22 March 1850
MS/257/3/347Letter from Francis Ronalds, Kew Observatory to Edward Sabine23 August 1850
MS/257/3/345Letter from Francis Ronalds, Chiswick to Edward Sabine1 April 1849
MS/257/3/342Letter from Francis Ronalds, Chiswick to Edward Sabine30 June 1848
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